Happy to Be Free

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Crowds of both young and old jam-packed the Independence Stadium in Windhoek yesterday to witness the very first address by President Hifikepunye Pohamba on the country’s 16th independence anniversary since his inauguration on March 21 last year. As people came in their thousands, most were eager to see and hear the President’s message to the nation on this momentous occasion. “I came to see President Pohamba live this year. I want to see him physically in person to celebrate this important day with him,” said one woman proudly wearing a T-shirt with an imprint of the President’s face. As early as 06h00 crowds of people were eager to celebrate the day, equipped with all the necessary rain gear in case of any of the good rains that have been experienced in past few months. “We are happy to celebrate the day and I feel proud to be here, because it was my forefathers and mothers who died for us to enjoy today’s freedom,” said Absalom Lusiya, opening up her umbrella when it started to drizzle earlier yesterday. For most Namibians, this has always been a day to remember and recollect on the memories of hardship experienced by the heroes and heroines of the country. “We have to remember the people who were at war, but at the same time as a young citizen of this country, I would like to see educational development in the country and job creation for the youth,” said 15-year-old Lucia Ndeshitiwa. Sitting just across from her was grandfather Johannes Philipus, who came all the way from the north to witness the day with his family in Windhoek. He was all smiles and 16 years of stability, freedom and peace symbolises a “new era” for him. “I feel happy now that we are free,” said grandfather Philipus, adding that young people should be encouraged to understand the history of the liberation struggle in order to pave the way for a brighter future. Walking on the steps of the stadium, one could see that while some people were sitting patiently and waiting for the President’s grand entrance into the stadium, others whiled away their time walking around in search of a comfortable place to sit. Looking rather attentive, Gabriel Kakweno said that even though substantial progress has been made over the last 16 years, some programmes need to be put into action. “More attention should be given to the growing unemployment situation and poverty, because people are still suffering. Action must be done,” said the young man, adding that he however commends the hard work and achievements made so far. Quite noticeably, Namibians from all ethnic backgrounds were present at the cele-bration, except white Namibians. As the hours progressed, pieces of plastic bags and cooldrink cans could be seen scattered around after people finished eating the breakfast packs that consisted of hotdogs and Merinda or 7Up cooldrink. The children were just as excited and even though parents and elders were telling them to sit down, such calls seemed to fall on deaf ears. With vibrating sounds from the Ndilimani Band positioned at one side of the stadium, the celebratory mood kicked off when the different military bands marched inside the stadium grounds. These included the Military Brass Band, The Namibian Defence Force, The Maritime Force and the Police Force band. As the day progressed, what had started off as a cloudy and rainy day gradually faded into quite a hot one, and people had to huddle under umbrellas to escape the heat. By 10h00, the air suddenly became electric when President Hifikepunye Pohamba made his grand entrance as he was driven around the stadium. Joyous ovation, ululation and clapping of hands in unison filled the stadium grounds as some people could also be seen hanging over the railings to have a glimpse at the Head of State. Dressed in a designer black suit, white shirt and tie the President greeted the crowd warmly by waving and occasionally clasping his hands together in the air. Although the Head of State’s speech was not long, some people around the stadium were unable to sit still and listen attentively. At times police officials had to verbally step in and instruct people, especially the idling youth and younger children, to sit down. “If you don’t want to sit then go out. Don’t provoke me; sit down,” instructed one police officer as she walked past. “Very little attention was given when the President was speaking. Please bear with us and listen so that you can carry home the message to those who were not so fortunate to be here,” added Director of Ceremonies Ben Amathila to the crowd. As the day moved on the heat at times became so unbearable that about four members of the NDF, police and Maritime forces had to be escorted to the ambulance to catch some reprieve, but later returned to their positions once the marching started. The day ended off with lively cultural performances from different ethnic groups as well as a soccer match between Khomas and Namib South teams.